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Full text of "Poland Russia and Great Britain 1941-1945"

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time of special upheaval and passion. Since^ in the opinion of the Soviet
Communists, the Socialists were the traitors of the working class and thek
most dangerous enemies, they, in particular had to be exterminated.
The case cf Erlich and Alter received an enormous publicity in the
U.S., and might be considered as a typical instance of the manner in which
the Soviet Communists dealt with the Socialists of the rest of the world,
where they were unfortunate enough to fall into their hands.
Henry Erlich and Victor Alter were well known members of the Jewish
Socialist Party * Bund ' in Poland,, and of the Executive Committee of the
Labour and Socialist International. Alter was also a member of the
International Federation of Trade Unions. They were first arrested by
the Russians in Eastern Poland in September, 1939, but not on any definite
charge, and were detained along with the other Polish citizens * After
several weeks in the local prison, Erlich was transferred to the famous
prison in Moscow known as e Butirki.' There he was frequently ques-
tioned by various examining magistrates and once by the Commissar of
N.K.V.D.—Beria. He was interrogated as to the attitude of the e Bund *
towards all manner of social and political problems. Accusations of
a criminal political character, so typical in toy of the U.S.S.R. political
trials, were not lacking. For instance, he was asked to confess that, as
leader of the e Bund' he had, assisted by the Polish political police,
organised sabotage and terrorist acts on U.S.S.R. territory.
When the Germans attacked Russia, Erlich was transferred from
Moscow to the Saratov prison. In July of the same year, he was brought
into a room, not very large in size, where there were five or six military
men. He was told this was the tribunal which was to try him. The
members of the tribunal at the one and the same time acted as judge
and prosecutor. There was no counsel. Erlich delivered a long
speech in which he defended himself against the charges preferred by the
prosecution—acts of terror against the U.S.S.R.; support for the prepara-
tions of an armed rising against the U.S.S.R.; collaboration with the
Fascists, etc. After a very brief deliberation by the tribunal the sentence
of death was pronounced. Erlich did not avail himself of the right to
plead for mercy to the Praesidium of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R,
He was moved to the condemned cell, where he remained for two weeks,
after which time he was asked to append his signature to the receipt of the
6 Order' by which his death sentence had been commuted to 10 years*
hard labour in a punitive labour camp. In September, 1941, Erlich, as a
Polish citizen, was released from prison.
Alter was arrested by the N.K.V.D. in Kowel during the last days of
September, 1939, After a few weeks he was transferred to the same prison
in Moscow in which Erlich lay—though neither knew of the presence of
* The Case of Henryk Erlich atid Victor Alter. Gsneral Jewish Workers' Union
Bmxd of Poland, Loi*don? 1942, gives further details.